The rise of "Islamic fundamentalism" in the Middle East and North Africa should be considered as an aftermath of Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran. That revolution brought the Ayatollahs (Shi’ite clerical authorities) to power and substituted Shari'a for the secular constitution of 1905. This change has clearly depicted the grave consequences of the creation of ideological states, this time in the guise of established religions.
Over nearly the last four decades, the world, having been rid of states with leftists systems, has been experiencing a similar phenomenon. The semi-secular regimes of the Middle East have given way to political formations that reflect a return to the dark ages, where humanism had no meaning and societies revolved around the doctrines of different gods, all of whom were represented by their respective religious establishments.
The reasons for the downfall of secular states have been manifold. During the 20th century, apart from the change in international policies, secular political formations were more often based on an amalgam of ideology and dictatorial methodologies. From Nazism to Stalinism, from Ataturk's laic rule in Turkey to Pahlavi's modern state in Iran, the modernization trends and secular developments were administered by force and ideology. Thus, a backlash was inevitable and revolutions would ensue as soon as there was a fissure in those very dictatorial systems that were, unfortunately, identified with Secularism.
For the subjugated people of those countries, it was the realization of the "Islamic State" that led them to understand how, they have lost something as valuable as secularism, without eliminating the self-perpetuating vehicle of dictatorship and ideology. That understanding has reinstated the aspirations for secular states; this time amongst the ordinary people rather than devised and implemented by the intellectual elite of societies.
Fortunately, this time, the elite have enough evidence to know why the endeavors of said political secularist went awry: Secularism is not necessarily attached to dictatorship or ideology while it can, almost certainly, bring about both configurations. Thus, it is now the duty of the intellectual elites of these societies to find a way to emphasize the true meaning of political secularism, as well as demonstrate its potentialities for creating such political regimes that have shown their merits in the open and democratic societies of modern Western counties.
The task is twofold: Expanding the meaning of political secularism from "Separation of State and Church" to "Separation of State and Ideologies" and, at the same time, attaching it to the pillars of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to ensure the commitment of secular states to the democratic nature of that Declaration. The result is the introduction of the notion, and modern discourse on "Secular Democracy". It is aimed at a political formation that is resistant to the penetration of religious and non-religious ideologies, and is based on the requirements of Human Rights.
This is a new perspective for the future of societies that are entangled in the web of Shari'a-based constitutions and institutions. It seems to be the only actual remedy and true "alternative" that can substitute the present formations, bringing about peace and progress to the ostensible Muslim nations of the Middle East and North Africa.
It is worth mentioning that Political Secularism is not anti-religion but acts as a filter to fend off the possibility of any religion or ideology gaining access to the seat of power of a state, in order to abuse this potentially oppressive apparatus to impose the dogma and doctrines of a narrow "weltanschauung" on the pluralistic makeup of modern societies.
A Secular Democracy needs its adherents and their organized efforts to substitute said political structures of ideologically-based regimes. It needs to become an organized alternative that can inspire the people and lead their endeavors for a better society and freer way of life.
Among the expanded Iranian opposition to the Islamic regime, the Secular Democrats, have proudly adopted this new outlook and have built several active groups and organizations that have proven to be very effectual in spreading the word, and introducing their outlook as the main political discourse within the present social arenas, inside and outside Iran.
One can now comfortably talk about the existence of an Iranian Secular Democracy Movement with millions of followers who are fed up with the present chaotic and anti-human-rights practices in their country. Nevertheless, such multitude of Secular Democrat organizations needs a facilitating forum for discussion and mutual understanding of the requirements that could lead to the creation of a "Secular Democratic Alternative" for the nation. This need has resulted in the creation of "The Annual Congress of Iranian Secular Democrats" since 2013.
This Congress has now been convened twice; first in 2013 in Washington DC, USA (2013) and then, in Bochum, Germany (2014). This year's conference is to be held in Frankfurt, Germany.
The theme of the third Congress is "Why don’t we unite?" The participants will engage in an investigation of the obstacles to their cooperation in building a vast and overall political front.
The event will have two morning and two afternoon sessions on July 4th and 5th, 2015. Participants come from various countries at their own expense and can stay at the Relexa Hotel, that will be the event venue, and which offers special rates. Food and drink will be provided, free of charge on both days.
These conferences are organized by an Executive Committee that can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to main page